Unlike previous years, BNP put in greater efforts in 2021 to make people feel its presence, but Khaleda Zia’s party still faces an uphill task to cast any impact on the political landscape ahead of the 2023 national election, according to political analysts.
As the nature of the game has changed, they said, BNP must have a strategic plan to make a turnaround.
“BNP should have done something that would have surprised people instead of only focusing on sending Khaleda abroad for medical treatment. People want a strong movement, BNP should concentrate on it,” said Gonoshasthya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury.
Professor Ali Riaz, a distinguished professor of political science at Illinois State University (USA), said BNP needs to bring its house in order and develop a strategy for the future.
‘Nothing tangible’ in 2021
On the first day of 2021, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir had said they were taking a fresh vow to completely free Khaleda Zia from jail and ‘restore’ democracy in the country through a mass upsurge by uniting the country’s people and political parties, but the party could not do much to live up to its pledge.
The party held various street programmes, including rallies and human chains, in protest against the price hike of essentials, a flawed election system, different incidents, demanding Khaleda’s treatment abroad all over the year.
The party marked the seventh anniversary of the 10th parliament election day– January 5, 2014 — by hoisting flags at its offices across the country.
BNP arranged human chains across the country on January 7 in protest against the price hike of essentials. It also held rallies and discussions at different times throughout the year on the same issue.
The party formed human chains in Dhaka and other cities on January 10, demanding the resignation of the Election Commission (EC) for its “failure” to ensure fair and credible elections to local bodies.
BNP joined municipal polls on January 16 and Chattogram City Corporation polls on February 27 and some other local body elections, but showed very poor show.
On February 5, BNP’s defeated mayoral candidates in different cities announced to hold rallies in six cities, demanding fair and credible polls.
On February 8, BNP arranged protest rallies across the country, marking the third anniversary of the jailing of our leader Khaleda Zia.
On March 7, the party policymakers decided not to participate in elections under the current government and the Election Commission since there was no scope for fair voting.
As the Covid situation started worsening, BNP suspended its political and organisational activities from April 1 to August 12. During the period, the party arranged various political events, including discussions and press conferences.
The party arranged a series of meetings with its central and grassroots leaders and professionals from September 14 to mid-October and took their opinions about the party’s next course of action ahead of the 12th parliamentary polls.
On December 19, BNP brought out a colourful rally in the city from its Nayapaltan office, marking the Victory Day. A huge number of party leaders and activists joined the rally, drawing public attention.
BNP has been observing various programmes including, human chains, hunger strikes, submitting memorandums to the DCs, rallies and demonstrations seeking Khaleda’s treatment abroad since mid-November.
The party also organised 32 rallies in different districts from December 22 to 30 to press for the same demand. People’s response to most of the rallies was a bit politically considerable, the analysts said.
BNP also lost its many leaders, including its standing committee member Moudud Ahmed, vice chairman Maj Gen (retd) Ruhul Alam Chowdhury and BNP Chairperson’s advisory council member and ex-MP Barrister Zaiur Rahman Khan, in the outgoing year
Throughout the year, BNP mainly concentrated on overhauling its different units alongside observing different street programmes to make the party ready for a movement for forcing the government to hold the next election under a non-party government.
According to a source at BNP’s central office, the party formed new committees of its 30 organisational district units out of 81 ones in 2021.
Besides, it reorganised over 300 units of the party’s upazila, municipality and thana units.
BNP also overhauled its most important two units–Dhaka north and south–with fresh convening committees on August 2.
Besides, BNP’s different associate bodies, including Chhatra Dal, Jubo Dal, Swechchasebak Da and Mohila Dal, made new committees of their different units at the grassroots level.
Contacted, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said party revamping is an ongoing process. “Due to the Covid epidemic, we faced difficulties in reorganisng the party. As the Corona situation returned to normal, we formed new committees of many district units. The rest of the district units will soon be overhauled.”
He said necessary instructions have been given to the district leaders to expedite the overhauling of grassroots committees of the rest upazilas, municipalities, unions and thanas.
BNP took punitive actions, including serving show-causes notices and removing from posts and the party, against its many leaders for violating the party discipline.
Devastating year for Khaleda
The advanced treatment of 76-year-old former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia abroad was one of the much-discussed issues of the year 2021 as her condition deteriorated since she was infected with Covid. An application of the BNP chief’s family for allowing her to go abroad has not yet been disposed of.
Khaleda tested positive for Covid on April 10 and received treatment at home till April 26. As her condition did not improve, she was admitted to Evercare Hospital on April 27.
Her family submitted an application to the government on May 6 seeking permission to send her abroad for treatment, but it was turned down.
On Jun 19, 2021, the BNP chief got back home from the hospital after 53 days of treatment for Covid infections and other physical complications.
Khaleda was admitted to Evercare Hospital for the second time with fever and some other health complications on November 12.
The BNP chief was readmitted to the same hospital on November 13, nearly a week after she was discharged from it.
On November 28, her medical board members at a press conference said she was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis.
They also said Khaleda was suffering from internal bleeding and she needed to go abroad immediately for treatment.
Doctors said she has also been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, ophthalmological and dental complications.
On behalf of her family, Khaleda’s younger brother, Shamim Iskander, submitted an application to the home ministry on November 11 seeking permission to take her abroad for treatment.
A doctor of Khaleda’s medical board said her condition is very critical as she has been suffering from intermittent bleeding due to liver cirrhosis.
As there is no scope for treatment of Khaleda’s liver cirrhosis problem in the country, he said anything bad can happen to her anytime if she is not immediately allowed to go to any advanced centre abroad.
Long way to go
Sought his remarks about BNP’s political performance, Prof Ali Riaz told UNB that the role of BNP and its efforts in 2021 should not be evaluated without considering the overall political situation in Bangladesh.
“Throughout the year, the country has further slid towards authoritarianism and de-politicization. In 2021, the BNP seems to have shifted from its survival strategy of past years. It has so far succeeded in keeping the organisation intact, but it has a long way to go,” he said.
Dr Ali Riaz said whether the BNP will be able to make a mark in the next election depends on whether there will be a free and fair election.
He said the BNP leadership needs to understand their role not only for the 2023 election but for the sake of pluralist politics in the country. “They are yet to fully grasp the responsibilities and chart a course.”
Ali Riaz said the challenge is not only restoring the BNP to its former position, but to restore the rights of the citizens.
Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury said BNP is unable to play the due role as a political party and muster strength to stage a comeback or mount genuine pressure on the government to allow Khaleda to go abroad due to leadership crisis, its wrong policies and lack of political acumen.
He said BNP should go to political parties and forge a greater unity to wage a strong movement for forcing the government to hold a credible election under a non-party administration and neutral Election Commission.
Source: United News of Bangladesh